Sunday, February 7, 2016

Proving who you say you are

Subject: Keeping one's word
Target passage: I John 2:1-6
Date: Jan. 31, 2016

When we're asked today to identify ourselves, there's more than one way to respond. Readers of this blog may remember my misgivings of having to show a driver's license to claim my one-year-old child at a mega-church recently! 

A scanner can verify your identity through your fingerprints and your irises to prove that it's you, so long as your fingerprint and "eye print" are registered in the correct database. A credit score tattles on your financial history. We're on the cusps of facial recognition technology, where a camera can tell who you are from a long distance, and pull up a rap sheet on you in a matter of seconds. "No Hiding Place Down Here," indeed.

When the Apostles walked the earth that wasn't obviously the case. Kings had their signets and nobles had their seals, but if you were the average person all you had was your word and the recommendation of others. In ages before, all anyone had was their reputation. Your word was your bond, and your trustworthiness or notoriety in the community was your "credit."

With that in mind, we looked at a few verses that had to do with keeping one's word as a means of identifying ourselves with Christ. There's no "Jesus Card" to say you're a follower of Christ (other than, arguably, a baptism certificate). When we say we're Christians then for our witness to be credible, we have to live and act as Christians -- though imperfect as we all can be at times.
"Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, ‘I have come to know him’, but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, ‘I abide in him’, ought to walk just as he walked." --I John 2:5-6.
Love is revealed to be the context here, if you read further in chapter 2. And what are the Commandments of God summarized, according to Jesus' own words? Also love, which means that if we're Christians we must show love for others. 
"Then Moses said to the heads of the tribes of the Israelites: 'This is what the Lord has commanded. When a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.'" --Numbers 30:1-2
In other words, God commanded the Israelites to be men and women of their word. Bearing false witness was not to be taken lightly -- even at great personal sacrifice. Believers keep their word. 
‘Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.' --Matthew 5:33-37.
James echoes Jesus' teachings about keeping your commitments simple and few in James 5. Here's another passage, where we're urged "let your words be few" -- to focus on the quality of what is said rather than the quantity.
"Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than the sacrifice offered by fools; for they do not know how to keep from doing evil. Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.
For dreams come with many cares, and a fool’s voice with many words.
When you make a vow to God, do not delay fulfilling it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Fulfil what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not fulfil it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake; why should God be angry at your words, and destroy the work of your hands?
With many dreams come vanities and a multitude of words; but fear God." --Ecclesiastes 5:1-7.
Next week, we'll look at what it means to LIVE your word. 

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And we sung a hymn ...

O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing! 

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Gathering with us was Ray Altman, the pastor of Leander United Methodist Church. Ray is considering planting several home-based churches in the North Austin-Cedar-Park-Leander area. We were excited to pray with him and lend our support as he lays the groundwork for this plan to expand his local church in an organic, mission-centric way.

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